Saturday, January 12, 2013

game preview: Clemson

Date/Time: Saturday, January 12; 12:00


Record against the Tigers: 67-50

Last meeting: Clem. 60, UVA 48; 2/14/12, Clemson

Last game: WF 55, UVA 52 (1/9); Duke 68, Clem. 40 (1/8)


UVA: 60.2 (#343)
Clem.: 62.6 (#321)

UVA: 103.7 (#102)
Clem.: 99.7 (#168)

UVA: 87.0 (#15)
Clem.: 91.9 (#48)

UVA: .8580 (#31)
Clem.: .6974 (#95)

Projected lineups:


PG: Jontel Evans (2.7 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 3.3 apg)
SG: Paul Jesperson (4.3 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 1.4 apg)
SF: Joe Harris (15.1 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 2.4 apg)
PF: Akil Mitchell (12.6 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 1.7 apg)
PF: Darion Atkins (7.3 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 0.5 apg)


PG: Rod Hall (6.2 ppg, 1.9 rpg, 3.8 apg)
SG: Adonis Filer (8.5 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 1.6 apg)
SF: K.J. McDaniels (11.0 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 0.9 apg)
PF: Milton Jennings (9.8 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 2.0 apg)
C: Devin Booker (11.9 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 0.8 apg)

Whoops.  The Hoos tripped and fell flat on their face in Winston-Salem, dashing any thoughts of this being an easy stretch of the schedule.  There is no easy stretch of the schedule.  This is Virginia - there is no easy anything.  We're still the team that gets recalled whenever Chaminade pulls within 15 points of an opponent in the second half of a Maui Invitational game, after all.  UVA continues a mini road swing in Clemson, with a chance to either redeem themselves or confirm everyone's deepest, darkets NIT fears.

-- UVA on offense

Clemson is an 8-6 team that's going to struggle to keep their head above water in the ACC this year, but defense is not their problem.  Brad Brownell is from a similar mold as Tony Bennett and emphasizes strong defensive play, and it shows in their stats.  They held Duke to 25 points in the first half of their recent game - if they'd scored more than 10 themselves, it might've been a game.

Clemson also plays at UVA's slow pace, so they get more credit than they should for points allowed per game, but that doesn't mean credit is undeserved.  They're an active, pressuring team that get a lot of steals, and their frontcourt blocks a bunch of shots.  It doesn't show in their blocks-per-game stat because of their pace, but Devin Booker and Milton Jennings are both pretty good in this department.  And wing K.J. McDaniels is more than pretty good, with a shot-block percentage (percentage of opponents' shots he blocks while he's on the floor) of 8.1%, and 1.9 blocks a game.  McDaniels is Clemson's top defensive player and will probably be assigned to Joe Harris, which could make life difficult for our one consistent scorer.

That frontcourt of Jennings and Booker should have a great battle with Akil Mitchell and Darion Atkins.  They're all about the same height, but Booker has some extra girth that makes him hard to post up on, but might leave him susceptible to moves based on quickness.  Spot minutes are given as well to 6'10" freshman Landry Nnoko, who is very much a Tunji Soroye type at this point (purely a defensive stopper), but with the heft to be able to stand his ground as well.

Truthfully, failure to score - not failure to defend - was the primary reason for the loss at Wake, and UVA will struggle somewhat to score here, too.  About the only thing Clemson doesn't defend well is the three-pointer - opponents can find open looks with good crisp passing to stay one step ahead of Clemson's pressure.  But you have to bury those looks.  For example, Evan Nolte's 1-for-7 performance against Wake can't be repeated.  Fortunately, UVA won't need to bury Clemson in points to win - maybe just hit a few timely threes.

-- UVA on defense

Clemson is a little bit of a KenPom oddity: their top six usage players all have O-ratings over 100, but the team's O-rating is below that.  Big reason: they leave a lot of points at the line.  Over three-quarters of their free throws are taken by players shooting under .700; at the bottom end is Booker, shooting only .524.

From the field, though, they can shoot.  At three-pointers, they're only okay - Milton Jennings is shooting a very nice-looking .429 and diminutive reserve guard Jordan Roper a decent .378, but that's as far as it goes.  But Booker does excellent work down low, and Clemson has a lot of ways to score in the paint, with both guards and forwards.

At times, it's likely they'll go small; they don't overwork Jennings and Booker, don't give many minutes to Landry Nnoko, and seem to be phasing Bernard Sullivan out of the rotation (only 7 minutes total in the past two games), but they're deep at guard.  Brownell has shuffled shooting guards in and out of the starting lineup, giving Adonis Filer his first start of the season this week against Duke.  Filer, DaMarcus Harrison, and Jordan Roper are a solid off-guard rotation.  OK, if we're getting technical, Roper is the backup point guard, but when he's on the court, the offense tends to run through everyone else more.  Roper averages less than one assist per game.  When starting PG Rod Hall is out of the game, the offense lacks a field general, which is probably another reason for their low effectiveness on offense.

This could be a very exceedingly boring part of the game, what with a UVA defense that wants to make you use the whole shot clock and a Clemson offense that has no problem with that, and habitually clanks three-pointers besides.  (Hint: the goal is to make Harrison and his 6-for-33 three-ball percentage do all the shooting from behind the arc.  Then at least the sound of bricklaying will jolt people awake.)  UVA may very well break out the low-post double-team on Booker early and often, and also needs to find a way to contain McDaniels, who is breaking out into a dangerous player.

(Also, as a P.S.: the Hoos better have fixed the baseline issues they had against Wake.  I lost track of how many times in the first half Wake was able to drive the baseline.  This causes Tony Bennett to flip his shit because one of the things we learned very, very early in Bennett's UVA tenure was that his defense is totally shot if the baseline is conceded.  Help on a baseline driver always, always leaves a post player open for a pass and easy layup.  Wake demonstrated this perfectly.)

-- Outlook

I have been understandably asked not to predict the Hoos to win any more.  That's great and all but I did correctly predict the winner of the Tennessee game, and despite what has happened multiple times against certain crappy opponents we had no business losing to, I will cling to that one low-scoring ugly-ass basketball game and stick to my guns.  This is a game UVA should win.  Clemson, for their part, is one of four ACC teams to start the season 0-2 and has to know that two of the others are playing each other this Saturday (which is to say, one has to win) and the fourth is UNC, who won't be winless for long.  They're going to be fired up on their home floor.  But UVA has so far always rebounded well from bad losses, and I like the Hoos in a close one.

Final score: UVA 53, Clemson 49

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